Commentary on Lesson 16

"I have no neutral thoughts."

This is perhaps one of the more profound, challenging and fearful lessons in the entire Workbook of A Course in Miracles. Yet it is also possibly one of the most ignored. Why is this so? First of all it offers no concepts to learn, no food for interpretation or imagination and no need for argument or discussion and, secondly, it is in no way relativistic -- it is absolute. In the typical human sense one is accustomed to assigning relative values to all actions -- "more" or "less", etc. A Course in Miracles is absolute -- black or white, true or false. Also, most often, the existent one tends to experience thought itself as without power. The Course, however, is repeatedly asking us to see that thought is the cause of action, that all action arises from mind and is based on thought and that, in every moment, we make and remake, by and with thought, only one choice -- between the reality of wholeness and the experience of separation. So, in every moment, thought reflects either wholeness or, in some form, reasserts and replicates the experience of separation. And there are no insignificant, small, less important thoughts.

"Thoughts are not big or little; powerful or weak. They are merely true or false."

So, every thought that passes through mind which, in any way whatsoever, induces an experience of this world of separation as real contributes to the moment-to-moment reassertion of the appearance of pain, suffering, sickness and death.

Often, in discussions about the Course, students ask: "How (or why) DID the separation happen?" as if it happened a long, long time ago in the past and continues unimpeded merely by some sort of momentum or inertia. Nothing could be further from the truth. All time emanates from now and the world is being remade, in mind, each moment.

"You attack the real world every day and every hour and every minute...." [T217/233]

A more appropriate question from the student would be: "How am I presently making the world?" This lesson offers the answer:

"Every thought you have contributes to truth or to illusion...."

and cautions,

"There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial and not worth bothering about that it is essential you recognize them all as equally destructive, but equally unreal."

EQUALLY DESTRUCTIVE! To what? To peace of mind. An earlier lesson points out,

"There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind."
[Lesson 5]

Initially A Course in Miracles asks the student to focus on "upsets," "attack thoughts" or "fear thoughts," allowing one to determine for himself what is upset or attack or fear and what is not, as if these were a limited and specific type of thought. After a careful reading of the Course, however, one begins to see that separation in any form at all is what upset, attack or fear is. Therefore any thought, "good" or "bad," which represents separation as real is an upset, an attack thought, a fear thought.

This lesson uses as a form of practice:

"This thought about ________ is not a neutral thought."

and suggests,

"Every thought that occurs to you, regardless of the qualities that you assign to it, is a suitable subject...."

asking the student to "actively seek not to overlook any 'little' thought...." Upon careful inspection one sees that any thought about, by its very structure, implies separation. The entire process of thinking about requires an observer (or thinker) separate from the object observed. Then, is it not true that all of one's so-called personal thoughts, all objective thinking, all thoughts about are intimations or indications of the idea that something can be separate from anything else? They are special forms and reflections, therefore effects, of the primal thought that separation is possible and desirable. Therefore, it is not these specific, formal thoughts that are cause and so it is not with the form of these so-called "thoughts" that A Course in Miracles ultimately attempts to work. Reformulating thoughts about is not the same as changing one's mind.

"...to change your mind means you have changed the source of all ideas you think or ever thought or yet will think." [Lesson 132]

Essentially the Course addresses the fundamental thought of separation, not its specific manifestations. It deals with all specific expressions in one general way -- that they are all EQUALLY UNREAL. It makes no attempt to change the form of specific thoughts (as in from "evil" to "good" or "hateful" to "loving") but to completely undo their source. All thoughts about anything at all are unreal because they arise from an unreal source, the belief that the objective world is real. All of the action of A Course in Miracles is directed at dismantling this unreal source at its very root.

Momentarily various forms of separation thought are in your mind, streaming like a wake from the primary idea of separation. Yet their immediate power lies only in your continued reaction to them as if they were meaningful, possible and either desirable or fearful. In lesson 44, the Course offers a practice which, when it is applied in every moment, in every situation, becomes the key to salvation,

"Try to observe your passing thoughts without involvement, and slip quietly by them."

Without your reaction to your thoughts as if they meant anything at all, the world has no support; separation vanishes; sickness, suffering, pain and death disappear. Yet even one "little" thought, held apart as real, makes all of wholeness meaningless and invisible to you. Each belief in the reality or value of the objective world is like a hologram; it contains the complete power of its source to disrupt peace of mind. There are no idle thoughts! There are no neutral thoughts!


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©1995 daan dehn

(1/6/95)